The entrance looks like a service door against the back wall of a dining room. That’s on purpose. One of the goals for CLASSIFIED, a private restaurant run by United and OTG at Newark Airport is to stay off the radar. The space seats only 36 guests and access is limited; you have to “apply” for a reservation online to gain access. Prior to my recent flight from Newark to San Francisco I clicked the magic link and discovered I was eligible (I’m not too surprised, though I don’t expect it every trip). So I booked a table for one and headed to the airport an hour earlier than normal to see what the fuss was all about.
I’d seen the menu online previously and I’m familiar with the OTG iPad-as-a-menu service style. I mostly knew what I was getting in to food-wise. But I was very curious about the ambiance and how well they’d hold the exclusive feel of the space. Among other things I was one of only four tables seated during the time I was there.
There are, undoubtedly, some quirks with the service pattern. If you want tap water to drink that’s easy enough; the waiter just brings it over. If you want sparkling water you have to order it before they can serve it. For travelers unfamiliar with the OTG system that can make for an awkward situation, one that erodes the personal touch the space is supposed to deliver. Similarly, after I ordered the waiter came over to confirm everything, reading it off a portable device. If they’re going to have that in the space anyways then why not let the waiter handle the ordering from a more traditional menu arrangement? I know this is the OTG way, but – again – it takes away from the high class image the companies are trying to impart.
Eat, Drink & Be Merry
The menu is broad and varied, though focused on American fare. Yes, there is a $140 surf-and-turf for two (huge bone-in ribeye steak plus a pair of lobster tails). That’s expensive, but not completely out of reason compared to a NYC steakhouse. There are also less expensive options, like a $20 hamburger or $20 wedge salad. Cheaper, but much closer to “airport pricing” on those options.
Beer and wine prices are similar to the other OTG shops in the terminal, which is to say definitely airport prices but not completely obscene.
And then there is the liquor list. I have no idea how much any of the dinks cost because the prices are not listed on the menu. That’s just obnoxious.
I do know that some mixers cost extra. Also obnoxious.
After scrolling through the menu a bit I eventually chose a fried chicken sandwich for lunch. It was spectacular. Seriously, this was a good piece of fried chicken. Properly moist thigh, fired up just right with spicy honey on top. I was hoping for passable; I got delicious.
Service with a smile
In addition to coming away sated food-wise, I was also mostly impressed with the service. It was a quiet time in the restaurant, no doubt, but the staff was attentive. The “regular” waiter was on top of things and seemed happy to be there (not always the case at EWR concessions). Plus, multiple different manager types came through at various points to make sure things were up to par. But the real service win came when I left.
One of the managers was out in the main restaurant area and asked how the meal was. My response was, “That sandwich is delicious.” He not only remembered which order was mine (and also had opinions on the sandwich) but asked follow-up questions about the product and the service. It was clear they are still tweaking the offerings and looking to improve things. When I mentioned that I needed a bucket of water on the table to keep my hands clean – like I said, delicious spicy honey sauce – he immediately seized on the opportunity to improve what was being offered. His version – a hot towel – is definitely smarter than mine and makes a ton of sense. That willingness to see that things can be improved and immediately translate it in to what a better experience would look like is impressive to me.
So if you get a hot towel with the fried chicken sandwich in the future, you’re welcome.
There is no doubt dining at CLASSIFIED can be a pricey proposition. But it doesn’t have to be. You can go in and just have a glass of wine or a cocktail (let me know what that costs!) and relax for a bit. There is music playing just lound enough that no one should be compelled to take a conference call while inside, a step up from the United Clubs. Plus, the food I had was legit tasty. I certainly don’t think it is an every trip experience and I imagine getting in during the evening TATL rush is harder. But eating there then sleeping on the plane would be a solid play for me.
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The ribeye was killer.
I’m sure it is delicious. But I cook ribeye at home and shudder at the prices for steak out anywhere in the NYC area. But that’s more a me thing.
Nice write up
Where does one find the magic link to apply (if they’re even eligible) for a table?
Interesting…let’s see if I get invited.
seems i was invited but probably deleted the email. thanks for the link!
I received an invitation for the trip I took last week but passed when I saw the prices. I try not to eat at EWR anyway.
We were brought hot towels when I was there months ago. I wonder if you got better service because you’re a blogger. I found the service (largely missing), food (bland and overpriced), and decor (dirty tables all round us) to be lacking. Glad you had a good experience but I felt it was awful.
I doubt being a blogger had any impact, mostly because no one there seemed to know who I was. And they’re pretty good about that sort of thing IMO. Also, I don’t know what about my service was “better” other than that it was early in the day and things weren’t a mess yet. Also, there was only one waiter working – with a little help from time to time from a manger – that I think is basically saying it was supposed to be quiet.
I won’t argue the overpriced aspect for most of the menu. A $20 salad is pretty crazy to me. But it is also the airport upcharge on top of NYC prices. And not all that much worse than the other OTG shops out in the terminal. Which is not to say well priced. But also not obscene IMO.
Drink process are visible once you click through to order. Pappy was $80 for a 1/2 oz serving, if I recall correctly.
I know they share the number after you place it in the “cart” but I find that a shitty way to do business. If you have to hide the prices from your customers something’s not right.
Agree. That should change.
If you need to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it. 😮
Or you just want to know what you’re in for before you afford it 😛
Just made a reservation for Sunday Dec. 17, very excited to try it!
While I’m sure tasty, surprised they’re serving dark meat as the primary for the sandwich given the price point.
Dark meat is better (juicier, than white meat any day of the week.
Yup…I was very happy to have that in the sandwich. And also VERY surprised it was the choice.
I didn’t know that CLASSIFIED existed, thanks for sharing your review. Regards, Alastair Majury
Thanks for the drinks prices, my next EWR is MAR30, likely early morning, so no drinking just your delicious fried chicken, thanks again!
There’s a different menu at breakfast so no fried chicken too early.
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